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tv   Political Polarization  CSPAN  July 2, 2016 4:50pm-5:59pm EDT

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, we think it is a good idea if others could join. we haven't started negotiations of this. when we talked about it we were imagining from our side there has been some interest. at least some discussions with countries like norway and turkey. i think it's a good idea to have an open platform and we would welcome these countries and possibly others as well. >> we have to wrap things up. thank you so much. thank you everyone on our panel here. [applause]
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>> now a panel of former government officials examines the causes of political polarization in america and the erosion bipartisanship and
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government. garber, hear from haley mike mccurry and bret stephens from the wall street journal. this is one hour, five minutes. >> c-span's washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. sunday morning, kelly jane torres of the weekly standard. they talk about the latest 2016opments in the campaign. and then the latest report of the most at risk and stable states around the world. live washington journal sunday. join the discussion. >> i never felt the urge to make money. what turned me on in the 60's
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was to make policy. that always is what drove me. >> sunday night on q&a. green,rview with mark author of bright infinite teacher. a generational memoir on the progressive rise in which he talks about his life and career in public office. thatu have to have a drive may be undesirable in a spouse or a friend. you have to wake up and go to sleep and think i want this so much. if you do everything you win. on c-span q& part two will air on c-span 2. now a panel of former government officials discusses the causes of political polarization in the
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erosion of bipartisanship in government. you will hear from haley barbour, mike mccurry lane and bret stephens from the wall street journal. this is one hour and five minutes. [applause] >> it is great to see you all here today. thank you for joining us. thank you so much for the dallas morning news for hosting this event. if you were up earlier today, questions of diversity in the newsroom, diversity on the panel, it is not always easy to embrace all kind of diversity in any given event, but i want to celebrate this event having done such a remarkable job of embracing ideological diversity. it is terrific to be at an event cosponsored by the george bush library, the george w. bush presidential center. i want to put you out of your
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suspense. can democracy survive? yes. [laughter] the question we're all wondering and talking about today, how? how bad is it actually? what we do about the issue. we all know a couple basic facts. there is a shift in how much embers of each party to each other unfavorably. 1984, 60% of democrats beat on -- 16% democrat you'd open unfavorably. now it 43%. perhaps, the more interesting data point, the one that suggests that issues are no longer ideological, but have become a matter of lifestyle and identity. the fact that in 1960 4% of
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democrats and 5% of republicans would have disapproved of the child marrying somebody from the other party. what are those numbers now? 33% of democrats but disapproved -- would disapprove and 49% of republicans. i pulled out some fun facts. no one, you study this. is polarization real? >> i think it is true that polarization is real. what would we have studied this over a much longer history is to look at patterns of rollcall voting in congress. one of the best matters of how partisan or bipartisan our institutions have been over time. a headline fact is that the levels of bipartisanship in congress are the lowest levels since reconstruction.
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to put that into perspective, the party system based on the regional cleavages might just resolved civil war had more bipartisanship than the current congress. polarization has not been a constant in history. through much of the 20 century, it was not that way at all. there were large blocks of conservative democrats, republicans were liberal. lots of important legislation. we have seen over the course of the past 40 years, roughly from the night -- 1970's to the current, at large deterioration in the level of bipartisan cooperation. i think it is a serious consequence for the government of society. >> what do you think happened? >> that is one of the core academic mysteries of this point. why a very bipartisan,
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unemployed system begin to take a different trajectory. there related to individual historical events such as the election of ronald reagan, the defeat of robert burks nomination, the impeachment in 1998, 2000 election. i don't think there is much behind this arguments. there has been a lot of focus on the way in which we conduct our elections, whether they be partisan primaries or gerrymandered congressional districts or uncontrolled campaign-finance. there's very little evidence that has much at all to do with gerrymandered commercial districts where the way that we conduct primaries. there's a lot less players asia in the 50's and 60's with a lot more gerrymandering and a lot more partisan modes of selecting candidates. there is some evidence that the
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campaign finance system has contributed to a system that was already polarized. it is probably making it worse at this point. i'm inclined to believe that our politics became our polarized because the state has become a much more diverse society over the past 45 years. whether that be through taking patterns of immigration, racial ethnic opposition, or economic differences like economic inequality. i think we have become a much more pluralistic, divided society on many of the important legal cleavages that is going to be reflected in the way congress represents the type of society we live in today. >> you point to some historical touch points. we often hear about reagan and tip o'neill as examples of bipartisanship in the 1980's and the events of the 90's. i was to turn to governor barbour who lived through the highly contentious events of the
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1990's. your chairman of the republican national committee during the government shutdown. lived experience, did you feel a change in how members of the two parties attracted? -- interactive? -- interacted? >> for and what to washington dc was 1968. jimmy's one was an old segregationist, my granddaddy was his daddy's lawyer. they told me to come back at 5:30, i came back and he walked into his office and was how make a quick ted kennedy and to conservative republican from
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nebraska democrat senator from georgia. he was the chairman -- democratic chairman of the judiciary committee. they knew each other. they were friends. they socialize. having a drink together. it is incredibly unusual today. most of the members don't live there. it used to be that the kids went to school together. their wives knew each other. that is one of the reasons, i think. another reason, and i have a different view, i think your mentoring has made a difference because, particularly in the house, we have to sentence -- census it has made the legislature reapportioned u.s. house of representatives and the state legislature. or years ago, the parties to get
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out, if we have control of the legislature, we can change the districts around a little bit will have a better deal. today, they are probably 350 house if that not competitive between the two parties. that make the 350 party members, they are not worried by the general election. they weren't about the primary. if they are in a safe democrat district in the northeast or west coast, or waiver, and i can't let anybody get to the left of them. if they are in the safe republican district, they will not let anybody get to the right of them. that has hollowed out the center. it does not directly affect the u.s. senate, but it certainly indirectly does because the legislation they see, the arguments that the senators constituents are here. i don't think there's any question this has happened. i think there is more than one
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reason. >> i'm sure districting is important. we will get back to that. what to talk about party strategy in the 90's. as you are moving into the majority republican congress, that was one of your future competence -- huge accompaniments. how did your party strategized on questions of bipartisanship and early 90's? >> it was a big advantage that had contract with america. we not had a majority in both houses in 40 years. the last time republicans, 1952. we lost in 1954. contract with america gay people something to vote for. most people who but a republican for congress that year were not regular republicans, they were mad at clinton. but having something to vote for like contract of america. easier for them. also meant, when we got the majority, we had an agenda.
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we spent the first 100 days, bringing up the 10 points of the contract of america and are interestingly, the democratic national convention in 1996, when president clint made his -- clinton and his speech, cemented six things that have been done with contract of america. he took credit for that. welfare reform and the balance budget. >> what you think about bipartisanship at this time? one little detail, this is 1995 when the white house does a study on the impact of the internet of political communication that is only get the first location of the right wing conspiracy on attack of the patent -- the clintons. >> at the beginning of 1995,
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this is after speaker gingrich took office, we start in 1995, very contentious environment. remember, in the early part of that year, they were routine stories in the press about is the president relevant anymore. all the energy was with the new speaker and the new majority in congress. then the oklahoma billion was blown up. at that point, president clinton found his voice again and began to shape the contra argument of the contract on america. [laughter] >> polarization. [laughter] >> and we hit over and over again the fact that we needed to invest in the future of the country. we need to balance the budget, we needed to protect the environ.
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had to make sure we cap social security and medicare strong. that discipline around the message carried us through that you to the point in 9095 we had the -- 1995 when we had the showdown with the republicans about whether the government would be shut down. brenda stefon diggs at the white house in the morning and have to honestly say that we did not know it were not confident we would come out ahead of the republicans the question of who would be to blamed for shutting down the government. because of our discipline and the president making the case, we ended up cannot on the upper end of that. -- came out on the upper and and that resulted in a strong election year. one thing, that haley said, i agree with -- when mrs. clinton was in the u.s. senate, we had breakfast event one day and i asked her, what is the source of this dysfunction and gridlock employers asian -- polarization? and she made that point. she said, we don't trust each
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other. we don't spend enough time with each other. we don't get to know each other well. i feel like if i go out how to play -- halfway and put something medically risk, no one will meet me halfway. i think -- yes, there was a study of the internet in 1995. brickley, there was -- frankly, there was one on news cable station. no one was using social media, the internet site the white house had transcripts of my press briefings which were mildly entertaining. it was not an era -- it was an area for the major mainstream media should the contours of the
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national discussion. you still had come at think at that point, 75-80% of the country reporting that the news from broadcast reports, daily newspapers, the traditional sources of information that we used to be coherent as a country. that has disaggregated now. newspaper circulation has declined. audio share for the major network has been declined. we don't gather around a common campfire to share our stories and develop a narrative. that is something us together as a country. -- that does not bring us
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together as a country. >> some people call it fractionalization and so the polarization. , to bring brett and here for a moment. he is a list of things people invoke as possible causes. redistricting, campaign finance, general fragmentation of the country, but sometimes, people point to the fact that since roughly 1980, elections have been much more contested in the decades before. in that regard, we should recommend that we live in a period of contestatory politics. maybe that is what democracy is about. we should by over the direction that we are heading. brett, he were in the ache of it -- think of it. -- thick of it. how has this affected your efforts to be a voice adding thoughtfulness and delivering this to the public? >> many respects, it is more
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difficult just because, if you are in the opinion business that i am in, and you offer a view that is not perfectly in line with what your audience anticipates, you're going to be treated not as someone who disagrees on one issue where a few issues, but as a traitor and you're going to hear it almost immediately from 4000 people on twitter denouncing you in one way or another. it takes some intestinal fortitude not to try to paley eight or mollify that's out of your audience to think that there might be an audience beyond simply be angry people who have time on their hands to fire off a tweet or a nasty e-mail. that is a real issue journalism. one thing that i fear that modern journalism is that editors increasingly have lost control of the narrative. why? we are looking, newspapers at large, looking at stores that
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are going to be popular with audiences. did you get on the most viewed, most e-mailed list this week? was at that say about the quality of your writing? there's nothing more depressing than when the wall street journal has a huge expense of a story about burma and only four people free. i can write another piece about donald trump and i know it would have a huge audience. there is a shelling of journalism in a shallowing of public discourse and rhetoric. naturally, politically want to play to those shallower narratives. it becomes difficult to see complex he and issues. it becomes so much easier to say we say you are on one side, you
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are on the other, there is no gray zone. there is no in between and there is no room for judgment or views that are shaded or colored by some kind of park city. that is a real issue. one thing, i want to point out, since i do write about foreign policy, what is happening in the united states in this electoral season is having all of the world. another country, the buildings elected them and described as the donald trump of the philippines. we have a populist right-wing party, illiberal party governing poland. same story and hungry. the movement on the right is gaining traction in france. the kind of centrist politics that defined the postwar europe
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are fragmenting, falling apart not just in the united states. i think it is worth asking, why this is a global phenomenon. it all seems to be happening at the same time. i think that is a question that ought to trouble us. i'm not worried about whether democracy can survive. i am producer democracy can survive. i'm worried about whether liberalism can survive. not left-wing liberalism, but the set of values that inform tolerant, pluralistic rules-based labbe society. -- law based society. >> what he makes about journalism and the pressure of this purity is felt by medical operatives and elected officials.
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-- political operatives and elected officials. this a group in the country that was. -- that wants peer-to-peer in a two-party system, purity is the enemy of victory. these to work for ronald reagan. ronald reagan copper mise on everything because the democrats have the majority in the house. he compromised. he said that a fellow who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and ally, not a 20% traitor. today, as bread said, if you think it is hard at the wall street journal, the about if you're in campaign accorded in south carolina or kansas montana. that pressure of, if you are not pure, i will be against you. they will get you in the priority -- party primary. >> where did that come from? >> personal, i don't think it came from a lot of people to be this to divided government.
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republican congress, democratic house. -- democrat white house. i don't accept that. ronald reagan was an artist a successful and divided government. -- enormously successful in divided government. we passed reform with hundred to democrat majorities in the house. i mentioned those for because they are complex and controversial. bill clinton was the same way. in six years, all republican congress, we passed welfare reform, the first balanced budget in a generation. it is not divided government. the president has to lead in this president has not chosen to try to lead to congress, but in fact, he is polarizing. that is not the only reason. >> when my previous losses --
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one of my previous bosses, that is probably what is happened. there has been a slow-motion erosion of those things that bring together a common good in of common purpose. th even wh -- billing clinton and gamers were battling back-and-forth, they were still on the phone. these to annoy the hell out of everyone on the staff. they would get caught. at the end of the day, they were working in a system that was designed to produce an outcome which is either some form of compromise or some sort of mutual agreement of where will have. that is what is gone. our fundamental function of government, the things that medicine about the federalist papers are not working.
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>> the question is, to break down social relations, pasadena compromise, orientation to the common good, symptom or cause? what the playback and. -- i want to pull you back in. >> i think all those things are tightly related. you mentioned, the rise and competition and that everything is competitive and every election is about control the white house or branches of congress, that is a factor. fold up on brent's point, orthodoxy. one of the things that has gone hand-in-hand with limitation -- polarization is party coalition. being a republican goes with having a set of policy positions that all somehow go together. they may not be coherent, but they understand the position. and they understand that democratic policy issue. this kind of extreme orthodoxy within both parties and the willingness to punish the heterodox has gone along with it in a lot of ways. a lot of the opposition compromise that the coalitions
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are fragile. you have to enforce this is orthodoxy because it is not coherent. if you look at donald trump, this timber lining is that he is the first person who is willing to challenge this orthodoxy. it does not appeal to somebody. it will be interesting to see what happens in the future now that we have a candidate who is going to say republican positions in some of the orthodox positions on immigration are not appealing to
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broad swaths of the electorate. getting back to your original question, why do all of these things go together and why do they started to get the same time is still very hard to explain. >> question, why do you think the system is collapsing globally? >> lots of reasons. one large point, since 1978, to give you a data point, france has not had a signal year of more than 2% growth. 38 years, not once more than what united states is considered the upper growth. 10.5% unemployment rate, toy 5% rate youth unemployment, same story for much of europe to the last decade. we have had about 2% growth in the nine states. stagnant economies tend to lead to radicalize politics. i was for the last 10 years, i
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don't mean to be so marxist and to list -- the materialist, but historically, and economies where investors did very well in favors do very poorly, it tends to be a breeding ground for a certain kind of political radicalism. if you are an investor in the dow jones industrial average, the last eight years you have been great. if you had a savings account at td bank, maybe it made 100 bucks. that is a phenomenon that is true from japan to europe to the united states. there is an economic explanation. there's also a historic back --
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fact and then i think 20's and 30's, for a broad set of reasons, the west came disenchanted with april democratic policies as a set of institutions that created mediocre outcomes, but were broadly fair and inclusive. there was a sudden thirst for a charismatic style politics for men of action, guys who would cut through the bull and make things work. the businessman at the that will throughout the regulatory nonsense. donald trump is ridden this to the nomination. make it happen. i think part of the story here is that a failure of ordinary politics to deliver on the expectation that modern western societies have in terms of economic well-being, anxiety, prospects, has typically turn people into saying, but look at
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these more radical nonmainstream alternatives. what the hell, let's give it a shot. there is a lot of that in the politics now with the strength of bernie sanders and donald trump at the presumptive nominee. it also throughout the entire world. if you're just an ordinary middle-class person or lower middle class person with money in the bank, you have not done well. you have seen the speculate in class as it is done well. that is one of the contingent factors. all caps of other things, but those are a few that come to mind. >> again, i'm not try to punctuate what he is saying, look at it this way, for three years in a row, public polling has measured by real clear politics averages that they
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publish every day, more than 50% of americans have said america is going the wrong direction. 35% of americans are republicans, that means there are a whole lot of people who are not republicans or independents or democrats that have now for three years thought we are going in the wrong direction. why would they not? if you are in the heartland or middle-class or small business person, you can tell the difference between the recovery and the recession. still feels like a recession. the national -- posted report that based on economic indicators like growth in gdp and income tax, only 7% of our 3000 plus counties are out of the recession. 93% are still in the recession based on those measurements. you see why people are mad and
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they are scared. what is interesting, and the hardest thing to understand -- we have polarity with essential parity. the two parties are very close in numbers. they have the white house, we have the house and senate. but they have an edge in the electoral college. usually in our country, at least since the civil war, when we have been at parity, we then bunched in the middle. they ain't no middle. >> this election season is an interesting one. on both sides of the spectrum, we have the center, we have heterodoxy coming back. policy paradigms breaking. trump and sanders, and debt and immigration. you made the point that there are serious problems that move politics toward extremes and
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empty out the center. if we think about how to fix it, how much do we need to address these physic issues of interaction, civility, tolerance, for alternative views, as part of engaging policy questions? that is, do we have to fix polarization in order to do work on policy? or can we just mullah forward and focus on policy? -- muddle forward and focus on policy? >> we need more campaigns that are aspirational. the one thing i'm struck by are those numbers that say a majority of americans no longer believe that if they work hard, their children will have a better quality of life than they had. that is the fundamental american
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dream. that has been in the dna of what we think we are as americans. unless we restored some sense of hope for the future -- by the way, there are different measures. some measures, if you look at things that obama has been able to accomplish, that indicate that we have had some kind of recovery. 77 straight months of job growth. obama has basically accomplished a great deal as president. i am a communications guy. i don't think they have told that story very well. i don't think the country feels it. that is the important thing. we have got to restore that sense that we can move forward and we have a better future for our kids. we need candidates and politicians who speak at that
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kind of lofty level. we are not getting a lot of that in this campaign. host: do we need to be, in addition to securing those aspirational purpose, do we need to do the institutional work? may bring it back to redistricting. we might debate on whether we need to work on that. do we need to restructure the electoral process as part of building incentive to work in the opposite direction? >> i would like to restore the actual process. i think one of the reasons why there are 350 members of the house has more with regional realignments in the south. people tend to find themselves in regions which were heterodox in the 1960's and 1970's and are not strongly partisan. -- are now strongly partisan. i think campaign-finance has to be looked at.
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i don't think it is the primary, initial cause, but a major contributor. if you go back to 1980, the top 0.01% of donors could you be did 8% -- donors contributed 8%. the top 10,000 people contributed about a percent. now, they contribute 40%. we have a copy in finance system that is unaccountable. very wealthy people can put their policy views before the people without the same type of accountability that actual parties have. that is beneath your for -- that has been a fuel for exacerbating polarization. what we have to look at in terms of institutional reform is about government. ultimately polarization is not necessarily a bad thing.
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in the 1950's, scientists worried there was not enough differentiating between the parties. the eisenhower republicans looked a lot like truman democrats. that is a real problem because voters don't have choices. if you wish for something, you might get too much of it. [laughter] we have a differentiation, but we have not figured out how to govern with that level of some of that is norms. a norm of designed. i understand where you're coming from if you understand where i am coming from. we are going to have these debates. we just have to figure out ways congress could come up with procedures that are less partisan and more able to have
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debates and resolve them. one example of an institution that i think should be reformed. in almost every other parliamentary democracy in the world, the speaker of the lower changer is in an and ministry of bureaucratic position. they are elected to stand up and recognize speakers. uniquely in the u.s., the speaker is a partisan institution. we can see what happens when you have the speaker of the lower house being a partisan institution. where a small fraction of the majority party can hold up position hostages. there are things like that that we can do. i don't like ideas of saying, let's try to eradicate polarization by eliminating differences of opinion. i don't think that is consistent
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with our underlying values. >> can i throw out one modest proposal? it connects to the idea of kind -- campaign finance reform. many of these members of congress are part of the reason they have their heads down when they were in washington, going to fundraiser after fundraiser. they spend all their time doing that. what if every wednesday that congress is sitting in session, we declare from 8:00 until 10:00 in the morning to be a fundraising free zone? [laughter] and we instruct the party committees, the dnc and all those raising money, that will be sanctions against you if you host events for your candidate during that time. the expectation is that a number will call someone from the other side of the aisle and say, let's have breakfast. there is one group called the faith and politics institute that gets people together for bible study.
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that has been important to the members that participate in it. or at least 1/3 of the senate. we create some spaces for these people to get to know each other and create relationships that can then translate to more trust. >> my own modest proposal was marry a liberal. [laughter] >> or a conservative. >> well, advice that i took. and it does me some good. both the essence of a good citizen in a liberal democracy is someone that can say, i might be wrong. i am only in possession of say, 80% of the truth, and i don't know which 1/5 is wrong. that is an important personal characteristic to have. what are the institutions in our society which are cultivating qualities of self-doubt? i mean that. this is something that we think about often in our editorial meetings. which might shock some of you to
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hear. [laughter] >> tell us more about self-doubt at the wall street journal. [laughter] >> we try to resolve them before we go with the paper. [laughter] but also, in terms of our pedagogical institutions, i would turn around on you -- what are universities doing? one of the things that astounds me when i get mail in connection to the current political season -- we gave up on this do nothing republican congress. and what do they do with it? you are tempted to write back, to you realize that the government can't be run out of the congress? you need the cooperation of the president? that is the way the system works? this nonstop assault from
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certain radio show hosts about the losers in congress that do nothing, overturn obamacare and x, y, and z. clearly these people don't seem to know how our system of checks and balances work. i wonder why that is. i wonder what failures have taken place from grade school to college, to what people are listening to on the morning commutes, that they don't understand these things. all these institutional fixes are terrific, but they are not going to work unless you have human beings who might say to themselves, i might disagree with the president. i might disagree with him it vehemently, but i don't think that he is a bad man. right? can we do that as a country? that is the question i keep returning to. one last point. the republican party was born
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from a president that summoned the better angels of our nature. i wonder who was summoning those angels in our political season this year? when one guy is saying put all of wall street in jail. another guy is asking for mass deportations of one ethnic group or another. who are the summoner's of the better angels? that is what i am concerned about. >> i want to talk about education and civic education. i think it is -- you list the victims of polarization. civic education is one of them. >> i want to talk about the common core curriculum was at its beginnings, a bipartisan effort. of governors at the state level. as we know now, it has become a controversial issue, fully embedded in the polarized conversations. one feature of the core
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curriculum was that national governors association worked with governors -- worked with educators to establish standards in math and language and social studies education. that third piece fell out. it was unachievable because of polarized views about how we should engage with american history. in some sense, the battle what are over whether or not the narrative should be triumphalist, fundamentally critical about the failings of the u.s. and efforts to overcome them. we have a deep problem with regard to this issue of education. and out and ability to share a common historical narrative. were you in office? >> i was in office. some of you may know that my state is a little conservative. [laughter] they were a lot of people against common core. i publicly supported the development of common core. our putting it into
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place. here's what never gets said. common core only fixes english and math. that is the whole curriculum. all the complaining is, they are going to take religion out of the schools. they are going to teach god knows what in terms of history and social studies. that's bunk. [laughter] i mean, the mississippi state department of education ultimately decides what the curriculum is. they have common core standards for english and math they decide, are we going to use these? the state totally controls it at the end of the day. the federal government doesn't. but that goes back to something that i think was the one point i was going to make, if i didn't any other. i became chairman of the republican national committee at
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the time of the rise of rush limbaugh. fox news. i loved it. i mean, i had grown up in the same america as y'all. when i graduated from high school and and we got, 90% of the stations, we thought all of those tv stations were liberal. "new york times." "washington post". we would finally get some conservatives out there, telling our side. in the last 3-4 years, the most bitter, the most harsh, the most negative critics of republicans have been the conservative media elite. the sean hannity's, the rush limbaughs, the laura ingrams, some of these people are friends of mine. but the fact of the matter is, it may be because of ratings, but they are the leaders, they are the agitators for the purity cause. for saying, if you don't agree with me 100% of the time, you are a bad person.
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that is the opposite of how you win in our system. the american two party system is about a bigger party. it's about addition and .ultiplication not division and subtraction. mitt romney got 60 million votes last time. if you think we are going to have a party where 60 million people are voting on everything, you need your head examined. my wife and i don't agree on everything. she says i have the right to be wrong sometimes. [laughter] in our party, we cannot get to where you have to agree on everything to be a good republican. one of the biggest victories we had in 1994, one of the things i was most proud of, in state after state, you see pro-choice republican voters for pro-life republican candidates and vice versa.
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he agrees with me on 10 issues out of 12, and i'm not going to vote. that is how parties are supposed to think. until we get back to that, we are going to have a hard time. >> on this prior point, there was or is a national civics curriculum that looks at k-12 that would leave us with more fully functioning citizens going out into the world as they move into college and become voting age. i think there has to be an intentional commitment to that kind of work in schools. we are asking a largely public school system to do some things that are risky. i acknowledge that. social studies teachers, when
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they are dabbling in how government works and how they function, you know you're on shaky ground sometimes. you might get some parent group coming in to complain. that is where collectively voices can stand up and say we cannot avoid to teach these students -- to cheat these students out of some understanding of this country. a lot of work has to be done on that. i'm going to tell a short story. when i first went to work in the senate as a press secretary, it was in 1979. there was a piece of labor legislation to reform labor law. i worked for the chairman of the senate labor committee, very pro-union democrat. as i wrote a press release one day, it was aimed at orrin hatch, leading to filibuster against labor law reform. i wrote a quote "any senator who
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would suggest that this legislation leads to mandatory unionization breaks truth to the breaking point." he's took me out in the hall, and he said you better be damn glad that press release didn't go out. that puts in the mouth of our boss a statement that calls one of the colleagues in a statement a liar. stretches truth to the breaking point. that is toxic language compared to what we have now? [laughter] my question is, who are the people taking the young hotshot preceptors in washington? who are those enforcing some sense of civility in our discussion? the media is gone. they used to be something like a referee. now they are more a part of the problem than the solution.
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collectively, it might sound polyanish, these people that throughout these toxic courts, that is not how we conduct ourselves in politics. >> let me ask one question before we turn it over for questions. your point about setting standards was very well taken. brett, from your point of view, what can newspapers and news organizations do to set better standards in this regard? can they do anything? is that a lost cause? >> that is a great question and
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more than a 2:25 answer. [laughter] look, there has been a shallowing of the news. it turns out that not only it makes for bad journalism, it makes for bored readings. it's not an accident that the newspapers that are still doing reasonably well are the ones that take the deeper dives. in the country of 300 million, if you have even 1% of the country, that is a lot of readers. the journal has 2.4 million. we would like to get to 1%. and that means bucking the almost irresistible trend towards catering to the audience preferences. and what seems to be popular now. it means, essentially, following steve jobs' admonition that you don't know what you want until i give it to you.
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you had no idea that you wanted an iphone until you got one, then you could not live without it. i think the news business could do something similar, which is to try and wrest back control of who gets to set the agenda. there is a wonderful line in "scoop," a novel in which the lord whatever his name is, the evil press baron asks that all questions be answered with "yes sir" or "up to a point, sir." a lot of what we do in the news business should be considered in an up to a point way. of course we want our readers to be in sync with us, like what we do, but up to a point. we want to have grown ups in charge of the newspapers, not be
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slaves to audience preference. that is true in academia, where i sometimes feel professors have lost the agenda setting prerogative. maybe in government as well, where senators are terrified of being primaried. how do you get the grown-ups to be in charge? it is a great question. i don't think liberalism survives unless those grown-ups reassert those prerogatives. host: let us open it up since we have these mics. would love to hear from you. >> i understand that george washington in the early days of our country warned of the beginning of the two-party system being the death of the republic. so this year in the primaries
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what i am seeing, and i understand that in primaries, there will always be a disagreement and people saying mean things about each other. but in this particular year, candidate after candidate has said that one of the candidates is a con artist, a pathological liar, dangerous. all sorts of scary things. and now suddenly that he is presumably going to be the nominee, suddenly that is okay. i have a problem with the idea that party politics is just some kind of a game. i think the preservation of our country as we know it should be more important than that. i'm wondering how you see those things. >> well, yeah.
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[laughter] mike mentioned that wonderful phrase from pat monahan, defining deviancy down. we have a new normal in this country where serious presidential candidates get away with saying things that i find scandalous. that is not going to stop unless some larger number of americans say no, this is not right at all and we will run you out of our political system for saying these things. this is what worries me about this political season. bear in mind, i will say something overtly partisan -- these are the candidates we are getting. when growth is around 2%. one-day growth is going to be minus 2%. what are we going to get then? and what will be considered all right then? one last point -- you mentioned george washington. i was rereading the other day -- george washington spent time as a young man writing out rules
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for conduct and civility. it is well worth reading, not spitting in public or how to comport himself with a lady. this is how the republic was founded, with a man of that kind of character. and republicans especially, who go on about the character issue, maybe should care more about the character of the candidates they put forward for high office. >> let me make one observation about the two party system. montesquieu, or one of the 19th century french philosopher's said that the two party system is the miracle of america because it acted like a teeter tottering. if one pottery got -- one party got too far this way, the public would run to the middle. that certainly hasn't happened in either party this time. one of my old friends from the
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white house days said, can you understand any of this? i said no, nobody can. i have never seen anything like it. >> he said yeah, that had to create a new term after sanders and trump. it's called electile dysfunction. [laughter] we are hoping one of the big pharmaceutical companies-- [laughter] >> i think we all needed that. thank you. >> mr. stevens made a remark that i fully agree with. i too would be concerned if we become a country with a minus 2% growth rate, reminiscent of the early 1930's. my questioning goes to the
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opening remarks, when there was a presentation of statistics that the negativity that is felt towards our potential candidates for president. over the past 30-40 years, we have seen a diminishing percentage of our citizens voting. are we going to continue to see that? and if so, is it that i real threat to the democracy? >> actually we haven't seen a diminution in the percentage voting since 1972. there is a good reason why it dropped, is because 18-year-olds got the vote, and they still don't use it. the real changes in the electorate, other than increasing numbers of residents,
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since 2008, turnout has been higher than it has ever been. yet it hasn't resulted in changing this conflict. one thing that concerns me, you look at the public opinion polls and see that voters have much more extreme views than nonvoters. it seems obvious that you should get some of the nonvoters to vote. the evidence shows once they become voters, they become just like voters. [laughter] that have just as extreme views. i hate to be negative on this. turnout is probably not the problem. the problems are probably deeper than that. >> i was wondering about how much the polarization has to do with the gap between wealthy and poor? i had a question for the governor. if you were still in the committee, the republican
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national committee chairman, would you have endorsed trump? [laughter] >> life is a series of choices. [laughter] and if the choice for president is hillary clinton and donald trump, i'm going to vote for donald trump. it wasn't my first choice. but that's the choice that i've got. having been through two campaigns, a third-party candidate is a vote for clinton. you might as well go and vote for clinton instead of some third-party candidate. i was chairman of the republican national committee. i don't know if you were born then. [laughter] no, okay, thank you for that. it's not my party. and donald trump is going to get
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12 or 13 million votes in the primaries, not mine. mine was not one of those. but he has won, and i'm not going to put my opinion, my views above these people. they have the right to pick the nominee. and i have the obligation to compare the choices. i voted for some democrats in my life, don't get me wrong. i'm just not going to vote for this one. >> what we do know is that periods of american politics in which the partisan divisions have been the largest are also in which economic divisions have been the largest. earlier, polarization was quite high during the gilded age through the 1920's. obviously a period in which the golden age was one of high
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economic inequality. lots of polarization in history from the 1930's to the 1970's, the lowest recorded levels of economic inequality. the upward trend begins in 1975, which is not quite steadily the the same time economic inequality started going up. there's a lot of debate about what the causes are. but i think that based on my work and others that there is some causal relationship. that different groups of americans suffer different economic success. it polarizes the discourse and leads to greater divisions. what we said about low growth. economic inequality and low growth have tended to correlate with one another. and low growth does lead to political extremism, as we have seen in the u.s. and increasingly throughout the rest of the world. >> thank you.
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thank you for a great panel. this has been terrific. >> thank you for sharing your thoughts. very appreciative. my question is along the lines of the difference between governance and ideology. we see ideology playing out for several decades, as far as what colbert would call truthiness. the idea where facts are now seen as subjective, not objective. and that plays so much in our convertible campaign process. now i see it much more read into our governance.
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we have state legislatures in texas that propose solutions to nonexistent problems. and spending huge amounts of taxpayer dollars on problems that don't exist, but exist in people's minds, or placed there through politics. again, not based on fact, the but solely on opinion or identity politics. what do we do about how it creeps into the way we govern? >> i had a democratic majority in the state house everyday. and i had a democratic majority in the senate seven years out of 8. the last thing that i wanted was a partyline vote. what did we do? we made sure the democrats understood my job was to get the job done. that we had problems that we had
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to do with, big problems. i never won a vote without winning democrats over. we did it by focusing on solving problems. i used to tell trent lott, i would like to say he was a third-year law student and i was a freshman. i would say, trent, senators talk about doing things, and governors do things. [laughter] that is the attitude that you have to have. learning to work together and learning to get the job done. it doesn't have to be 100% my


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